Lookout Mountain Flight Park
Look out below; it’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s me– hang gliding at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Woo-hoo and a hoot-hoot! I feel like an owl soaring through the sky on unfurled wings. The cloudless day blesses me with gorgeous views, rather like looking out the window of a low flying airplane, but…without the plane.
I’ve always dreamed of flying; as a kid I longed to leap from the window and soar off to Never Never Land like Peter Pan and Wendy. A few years ago, although scared, I jumped at the opportunity to sky dive. The incredible experience left me empowered enough to try just about anything. So, when a chance to go tandem hang gliding appeared, I knew I would go.
The outing began at mountain top where I found the pro shop and offices of Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Waivers and releases were signed and temporary student registration cards handed out. I wasn’t just going along for a ride, I was taking a lesson.
I drove back down the mountain to the flight school which sits within a 44-acre grassy field. Here I met Dan Zink, manager, who had me step into a flight jacket of sorts with lots of tabs, hooks and rings. Then, a group of first timers assembled to watch a video and complete a short written test.
Soon my pilot, the charismatic Eric Grue, called my name. He had just landed an earlier flight. Eric strapped me in a harness, more like a sling, as I lay face down in a horizontal position. Space was tight so I needed to snuggle up next to him, with my right arm over his back– one of the benefits for sure. The glider has wheels on a frame which allows it to be tethered to an ultra-light plane for take-off. Therefore, I did not need to fling myself off a cliff.
The plane rolled down the field and slowly took off; we followed behind lifting with ease. No fairy dust needed; I was Peter Pan. The flight was surprisingly quiet but I could feel the rush of the wind on my face. Whew, pure exhilaration. Eric answered my questions and I had total faith in him- especially after he told me he had earned a Ph.D.
When the pilot reached 2,000 feet, the tether was released and our free flight began. I had a rush of euphoria but simultaneous calm; I think that’s a state of enlightenment. I honestly felt sereneness and joy.
Amanda Jobe, another first- time glider said afterward, “It was amazing. All my problems went away up there. It was the best way ever to start a day.”
Eric instructed me on how to control flight, “Push your hips and legs toward the left and the glider turns left. Want to go right, do the opposite. Pull forward on the bar and we’ll go faster, push back and we slow down.”
The technique was simple and I thought to myself “totally radical.” In that instant of ecstasy I forgot I was a sixty year-old grandmother. Instead I felt like one of those super cool Olympic snowboarders.
I’m still flying high.
If you go:
Lookout Mountain Flight Park is the largest hang gliding school and resort in the United States. Every year they teach, certify and solo five times as many pilots as any other school. Their 110-acre resort boasts cabins, bunkhouses and camping on site.
Lookout Mountain Flight Park
7201 Scenic Highway
Rising Fawn, GA 30738
For other fun activities in the Chattanooga area please visit www.chattanoogafun.com